Fast forward into the future, Paul is writing another letter to the young congregation in Thessalonica. Or is it Paul? Apparently, there is some controversy as to the authorship of this second letter, despite the fact Paul’s name is used. As I’ve said before, I don’t want my reflections to get so caught up in those kinds of details, but I did want to make you aware of something I had learned in case you notice a difference in style or intent between the two letters.
Similar to 1 Thessalonians, we do see a lot of thanksgiving going on. I love the picture these words paint for me as Paul says, “your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” Don’t we all want this type of observation to be made about us? What a compliment!
The cool part is they are growing like this despite the persecution that clearly tries to put a stop to the enthusiasm of their faithfulness. These new Christians aren’t letting the negative things happening around them move them off course. They aren’t allowing themselves to be distracted from being set apart as Christ followers. Words like “endurance” and “hardship” lead us to believe life is not all peachy keen and yet they are thriving.
What do we do when we face adversity, hardship, ridicule, or abandonment for our faith? Do we bail on Jesus or find new friends? How are we supposed to stay strong when we feel like we are being attacked from all sides? How do we stay strong when we feel alone and misunderstood? (If you’re a pastor’s wife, too, you can probably identify with me!)
Paul suggests that we need to rely on God, and his justice will prevail. We used to say in our recovery ministry, “God never wastes a hurt.” While we weren’t necessarily talking about “persecution” in the 12-steps, the idea seems to apply quite nicely here as well. As I see it, God doesn’t cause bad things to happen (including persecution), but he will take care of us through it. “And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.”
God’s justice may not resemble what we think of as justice. And, we may never actually witness God’s justice playing out. I heard recently that God isn’t always “fair.” That’s what people want these days. Their idea of “justice” is “fairness.” We need to remember that God is just and that might not always seem fair (in our terms).
“In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.” We don’t need to worry about getting even with those who knock us down, question us, slander our names, etc. In other words, God has our backs. It can be difficult to walk away from a volatile situation. Our instincts would tell us to stay and fight. God’s whisper in our ear tells us, “Go. Leave this for me to handle.” Doesn’t that just sound fantastic?
I’m not one for confrontation. I think that’s why I was happy to stay behind the scenes while letting the lawyer be out front, confronting the “bad guy” or opposing counsel. To know that I have an advocate fighting my battles is terrific. Instead of worrying about a situation, I can spend my precious time drawing closer to Jesus and becoming more of the woman God designed me to be.
Take some time today to reflect on a time when you have felt persecuted in some way for your faith. Maybe it’s even happening now. Remember, too, it’s especially hard when the persecution comes from someone you love or who you see as another child of God. Open up to God about your concern regarding the situation, and then give it to God to handle.
Let’s pray … Lord, I want to be plugged in to you and your truth. Help me to walk away from situations that are unhealthy for my life and faith journey. Give me the peace to let go and the assurance your justice will prevail. Help my heart to catch up to my mind which knows your ways are true. Thank you for acting justly on my behalf. In Jesus’ name. Amen.